Rugby lads to tackle French challenge

Members of the Hastings and Bexhill Rugby Club who are taking part in a charity fund raising event for the BLESMA.
Members of the Hastings and Bexhill Rugby Club who are taking part in a charity fund raising event for the BLESMA.

A TEAM of superfit rugby players aim to be on the ball by running to Dover, swimming the English Channel before cycling to Caen from Calais.

Hastings and Bexhill RFC players Ben Arnold, Michael Ellis, Anthony Roache, Stepehen Roache and Joe Ward will take on their ambitious ‘Harold’s Revenge’ challenge in the first week of July.

The players will set off from Battle Abbey running a 57 mile relay all the way to Dover.

They will then take turns to swim 25 miles across the Channel to the French shores before donning their cycling helmets and tackling a 250km bike ride through Normandy to Caen.

They will be greeted on arrival at Caen Rugby Club and hope to raise £5,000 for the charity BLESMA, the British Limbles Ex-Servicemen’s Assocation.

Team captain Michael, 53, is used to challenges having climbed Kilimanjaro.

While on the walk he met Debbie Hawkins, the mother of soldier Joe Townsend who is from Eastbourne.

Joe lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan aged just 19 in 2007.

The Royal Marine took part in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics last Summer flying into the main stadium on a zip wire holding an Olympic Torch.

Hastings and Bexhill RFC president Jerry Hohenkerk and club member Mike Richardson are providing back up and team support along the way.

The lads have been busy training at the weekends and can often be seen swimming in the sea at Bexhill.

Just last Saturday they hot-footed it down to Dover to test the waters.

The sea is much colder this year following a prolongued cold winter and later Spring.

And they are only allowed to wear trunks and goggles, no wetsuits to keep them warm in the chilly English Channel.

Ben and Michael are both from Battle, Anthony and brother Stephen are both from Eastbourne and Joe Ward is from Bexhill.

The team aims to set off in the first week of July providing the channel is calm enough to get across.

Michael said: “We are very confident and can’t wait to take it on.

“It will be a team relay so no matter what the time it will be a world record as no one else has ever done this before.

“That is the Normans of 1066 in reverse I guess. That’s why we’re nicknaming the challenge Harold’s Revenge.

“To cross the Channel with the Channel Swimming Association we are not allowed to wear wetsuits according to their rules.

“Caen Rugby Club will welcome us on arrival though I doubt we’ll have the energy to for a game when we get there.”